How to Import, Edit,& Loop an Audio File in Cubase 6
Importing Audio files into Cubase
This is the second part to a 4 part series on editing Audio in Cubase 6. If you're new to this series, feel free to check out my previous hub here.
For this tutorial, you will not need to provide or record any audio files. Cubase 6 comes with an arsenal of pre-made audio files that will work great for this demo project. First, launch Cubase 6, then when the Project Assistant appears, select the "Empty" preset found under the "More" tab (shows an icon of a tag with a "?"). Next select "create" and Cubase will open a blank canvas Project for you so you can start from scratch.
From the Project Menu (located on the Menu bar at the top), select "Add Track". Then from the sub-menu under Add Track, select "Audio". When the Add Audio Track dialog window appears, make sure that the count reads 1, the Configuration reads Stereo (use the arrows to reset if necessary), then select the "Add Track" button. A blank Audio Track appears labeled as "Audio 1".
There are a few different ways to import an audio file in Cubase. I'm going to show you a really easy way by using a feature in Cubase 6 known as the Media Bay (see photo below). To open the Media Bay, select the Media Menu located on the Menu Bar, then select "Media Bay". Like a lot of windows in Cubase, the Media Bay can have a lot of different appearances when it's launched depending on the settings in its Setup Window Layouts (displayed as an icon with 3 black boxes on a button in the bottom left hand corner of the Media Bay). To make sure we're on the same page, select this button and then check each of the boxes so that all of the functions of the Media Bay are displayed as shown in the photo below. Next, in the Define Locations section (on the left hand side of the Media Bay), locate and select the "+" sign next to "VST Sound" to expand the contents of the VST Sound folder. This is the folder that contains the arsenal of material included with Cubase 6. In this folder, you should see a folder labeled "Drum Loop Expansion 01". If not, you might need to check your installation disc or carefully reinstall Cubase 6 on your system. Select the "Drum Loop Expansion 01" Folder. In the Results window (located in the middle of the Media Bay), you should see several files. If not, select "All Media Types" from the "Select Media Types" display located at the top left of the Results window. By selecting "All Media Types", all files that Cubase 6 recognizes will be displayed in the Results window. Since this folder contains only audio files, only audio files will be displayed.
Locate and select the file "02 097 Drums-a" from the Results window. Audition the file by selecting the Play button on the Previewer (located just below the Results Window). Notice how the tempo reads 97 BPM for this file within the Results window. This groove is recorded at 97 BPM, but when you create a new project, the default tempo of the project is 120 BPM which is much faster. Now select the "Align Beats to Project" button (looks like a black note with a triangle next to it located on the top right hand side of the Previewer). By selecting this button, the audio file is automatically transformed to 120 BPM. Push play, and you'll hear how the speed changes. This is the magic of a process that Cubase 6 refers to as "Musical Mode".
To import this file directly to an audio track from the Media Bay, simply select the file again with the mouse and drag and drop the file into the audio track at measure 1. A blue line will appear to guide you to the location where the file will start in your track. Once the file has been imported into your track, it will look like the photo below.
Importing via the Media Bay
Making Basic Edits to the Audio File
Now that your audio track is imported, you should be able to play back this audio simply by using the transport. You can now close the Media Bay because you will no longer need it for this tutorial. The beat that we imported is 4 measures long. Listening back, it really sounds like it's just a 1 measure groove that happens to repeat 4 times. Let's cut it down to one measure.
Right click on an empty part (light grey background) to bring up the Toolbox. Hold your button so you can view it for a while as I go over the tools from left to right. The arrow is also known as the Object Selection Tool. Use this to select or move parts (or events) around in the Project Window. The Range Selection (just to the right of the Object Selection Tool is for selecting multiple parts at once. The little pair of scissors is the Split tool. This is what you use to cut any part that you're working with into sections. The weird looking little icon next to the scissors is the Glue tool. It's used to mend parts back together once they've been split. The Eraser icon, known as the Erase tool, is used to delete visible parts. The magnifying glass, known as the Zoom tool, can be used to zoom in or out for more detailed editing. Next, the "X" icon is the Mute tool. This can be used to silence any part without deleting it. The Time Warp tool next to the Mute tool is an advanced tool to use when working with free flowing tempo recordings. The little pencil is the Draw tool and can be used to create new "containers" used to edit files. The diagonal line next to the Draw tool is the Line tool. It's best used during mixing (another tutorial). The speaker icon displays the Play tool which can be used to audition any audio that it touches.Finally, the paint bucket (or Color tool) next is used to help you color code your tracks so that you can stay organized.
The only tools you'll ever need for basic audio editing are the Object Selection Tool & the Split tool with a possibility of also using the Glue tool and the Erase tool. If you've been following along with my MIDI tutorials, you're already familiar with the Quantize features which can be used to define a musical "grid" that keeps beats where they belong. These features also apply to audio (which I will be discussing a little later). The quantize settings (located at the top) also define something known as the Snap settings. Snap settings allow to make perfectly aligned edits as opposed to sloppy edits. To activated the Snap feature, select the button that sort of looks like a greater than/less than symbol) located on the menu bar (see photo below). Just to the right of this button is where you'll find the the Snap settings. For basic editing, your Snap settings should always be set to "Grid". Make sure that Grid is checked before moving on. Also, from the Quantize menu (located just to the right of the Snap settings on the Tool bar), make sure the settings read "Bar". This will make it so that you can only make edits on the downbeat of each measure.
Next, right click to bring up your toolbox again and then select the Split tool. If you hover your mouse over the audio track, you should notice a vertical line that appears as you hover over the downbeats of each measure. With the Split tool, left click right at measure 2 on the audio track. Once you've split the track, you should see a vertical line through the track. This displays your edit point. You now have 2 separate parts (or events) to work with. Next, use your Toolbox again to select the Erase tool. Hover the Erase tool around measure 3 and then left click on the audio part. After clicking, you should see measures 2-4 vanish. This leaves you with only the first measure. Congrats! You just edited a 4 bar beat into a 1 bar beat.
Editing an Audio Track
Looping a One Bar Phrase
There are many ways to loop a one bar phrase in Cubase. I find that sometimes it just easiest to loop a phrase by making multiple copies of the bar repeatedly throughout the song. To do this, select the one bar phrase, then from the Edit menu on the Menu bar, select "Functions". Then from the "Functions" sub-menu, select "Repeat". A "Repeat Events" window will appear prompting you for a "Count". This simply represents the number of time that you would like this part to repeat. Let's repeat it 20 times. You can use the arrows to change the count, but in this case, it's probably easiest to click inside the number box and type in "20" instead. Once finished, select OK. You should have 20 copies of that new edit all side by side on the track as shown in the photo at the top of this tutorial.
What you just learned was one of many ways to import, edit, and loop audio in Cubase 6. To learn other ways, please feel free to check out one of my books posted below. Keep in mind that editing within Cubase is non-destructive. Every edit can be "undone" by using the Undo feature, and your original digital audio file is not affected in any way.
I hope you got something out of this tutorial. Next week I'll show you how to time correct a drum part that has been recorded over multiple audio tracks using Cubase's audio quantize features.